Composer and Violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama
has a website at www.ngwenyama.com
and is featured at AfriClassical.com
March 15, 2016
The stars were out in Newnan Saturday for the 2016 edition of Friends of Wadsworth.
The concert series that continues a tradition of more than two decades for Wadsworth Auditorium audiences again delivered with a lineup of world-class singers and musicians.
Now leading the annual chamber music programs as artistic director and host is fellow Newnan homegrown talent Courtenay Budd, a soprano with her own busy stage career. In her newest endeavor, later this month she will perform and record David Del Tredici's demanding "Child Alice' with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.
This weekend Budd shared the spotlight with baritone Randall Scarlata, who has appeared as a soloist with top orchestras and on important concert stages throughout the world. Scarlata is particularly well known for his interpretations of German Lieder and American Art Song. Joining them was a group of acclaimed artists from the chamber music world including violinist Chee-Yun who has performed for Newnan audiences in multiple Wadsworth concerts, violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama, cellist Wendy Sutter and pianist Laura Ward.
Budd also shared a touching tribute to the late Don Nixon who for more than 10 years led the development and operation of the Coweta County School System's Centre for Performing and Visual Arts. With his recent passing she honored Nixon's memory with her performance of the song “Morgen” (Tomorrow) by Richard Strauss. The piece, Budd said, expresses comfort, confidence in love, tranquility, and hope for tomorrow ... a fitting tribute for "a life lost too soon."
Loosely translated the poem goes:
"And tomorrow the sun will shine again,
and we will be reunited on the wide, sun-bathed shore,
and upon us will descend the mute silence of happiness."
Budd dedicated Saturday's performance to the memory of Don Nixon, who she referred to as "a dear friend, to many of us personally, but also to the arts in our community."
"Don Nixon was a devoted and invaluable supporter of our work here," Budd wrote in a letter to "Friends of Wadsworth" included in Saturday's concert program.
"He was passionate about bringing good music to Newnan and especially about introducing younger audiences," she wrote. "We always relied on Don to lend us his expertise, providing everything from music stands to priceless moral support. We are grateful to have known him, and we will miss him."
Opening the program on light themes of love and music, food and wine, Budd and Scarlata shared a collection of six selections from "Twenty-five Scottish Songs, Op. 108 by Ludwig van Beethoven. The Scottish folksongs were a nod to Newnan's recent Robert Burns Weekend celebration, an event celebrating Newnan's ongoing sister city relationship with Ayr, Scotland.
As part of the concert's first half Ms. Ngwenyama, a Phoenix resident who both performs and writes music, previewed her new composition for viola. The piece, "Sonoran Storm," paints a driving musical picture of the rain storms that come to that area of the country. The Newnan audience got to hear the piece she will be performing later this month in Los Angeles.
The second half started with a French theme, featuring pieces by Ernest Chausson, Alfred Bachelet, Maurice Ravel and Erik Satie, performed by Budd and Scarlata with the talented Laura Ward at the piano.
Courtenay Budd shared memories of singing at the spring Spoleto festivals in Charleston, with Charles Wadsworth at the keyboard and his great career rubbing elbows with all the greats of classical music, including 20 years as accompanist for the famed Beverly Sills. If it could not be Charles Wadsworth at the piano, Ward put the artists in great hands for Saturday's concert, she reflected. Budd has shared the stage with Ward in Spoleto, Italy for the last two summers.
Budd and Scarlata performed a pair of German pieces: Budd singing "Fruhsingstimmen Walzer" by Johann Strauss Jr. and Scarlata presenting "Mein Sehnen, Mein Wahnen (Die Tote Stadt)" by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Together they performed "Love Unspoken (The Merry Widow)" by Franz Lehar.
Chee-Yun and Nokuthula Ngwenyama performed an arrangement for violin and viola of "Passacaglia in G Minor on a Theme" by George Freidrich Handel. The piece was often performed at chamber concerts to showcase the talents of the musicians, explained Chee-Yun as she introduced the piece.
Concluding the evening's program, Chee-Yun and Ngwenyama were joined by Wendy Sutter on cello and Laura Ward on piano for the finale from Antonin Dvorak's "Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, op. 87," bringing the audience to their feet.